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Criterion Update: Finding Great Films Faster

April 7th, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

Want to delve into the Criterion Collection but don’t know where to start?

We’ve just introduced some changes that make sifting through the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus a lot less daunting. Some brand new features will help you discover new films to love as we continue to additional titles from Criterion — more than 100 since launching the section in February, nearly all of which stream exclusively on Hulu Plus, with many others to come in coming weeks.

Since Criterion has compiled so many great works by the world’s greatest filmmakers, we’ve added new functionality that allows you to sort by director. So now you can devote an entire weekend to watching 10 Charlie Chaplin films from just one page.

Movies are now sorted into themes, too. Want to see Francois Truffaut’s first film? It’s “400 Blows,” and you can find that out under the First Films section in Themes. We’ve grouped together titles into categories such as Oscar winners, documentaries, and titles from independent American filmmakers.

Additionally, we’ve begun adding supplemental videos from the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus. You can find these as you watch a film, and they include some fantastic highlights, including:

We’ll continue to roll out supplements as quickly as we can digitize them.

We think these updates will enhance your experience as you enjoy the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus. Let us know what you think!

Last comment: about 7 hours ago 23 Comments

A gift for movie lovers: Criterion Collection joins Hulu Plus

February 15th, 2011 by Eugene Wei SVP, Audience

My earliest movie exposure was heavily influenced by what my father could find at the local video store. He’d stop there on the way home from work and pick out one of new releases from the display of empty video boxes that lined the outer walls of the store. And so my early love of movies grew largely from a diet of American Hollywood blockbusters because that’s what dominated the most coveted merchandising space at our local video stores.

After college, I moved to Seattle, and some movie buffs I met there introduced me to a video store called Scarecrow Video. This was unlike any video store I’d ever encountered. It was enormous, carrying seemingly every movie ever put on video in any format, from VHS to laserdisc to DVD, including PAL videotapes and foreign region DVDs that required renting special machines to play. These were movies from all over the world, in all languages, sorted not just by new versus old but by country, director, and genre. It was at Scarecrow that I rented my first Criterion laser disc. Most of them were so rare that the store required a credit card deposit of several hundred dollars just to walk out of the store with the movie.

But it was worth it. The Criterion Collection is likely the preeminent distribution brand in the minds of movie buffs. They’ve earned that title in two key ways. One is by curating and licensing rights to a library of truly great, enduring movies. Secondly, when they bring those movies to the world, they do so with an attention to detail and quality that can only come from the purest love and respect for movies as an art form.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve added the Criterion Collection exclusively to our Hulu Plus service today. Criterion has digital streaming rights to over 800 of the films in their library, from a who’s who roster of directors: Antonioni, Bergman, Bresson, Bunuel, Chabrol, Chaplin, Clouzot, Cocteau, Dreyer, Eisenstein, Fassbinder, Fellini, Godard, Kaurismaki, Kieslowski, Kurosawa, Lang, Malle, Ozu, Renoir, Tati, Truffaut, Varda, and Welles, to name two handfuls. We’re launching with over 150 Criterion movies today, and we’ll be adding more titles each month. Among the launch list today are so many acknowledged classics: The 400 Blows, L’Avventura, The Battle of Algiers, Breathless, La Jetée, Jules and Jim, M, Pickpocket, Playtime, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, La Strada, and The Wages of Fear.

But just as exciting are the titles still to come. These include not just more well-known classics but also movies that have been difficult or impossible to find on video in any format. Le Silence de la Mer, by one of my favorite directors, Jean-Pierre Melville. The extended filmography of Kenji Mizoguchi. Early shorts by Chaplin. L’Assassin Habite au 21, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s first feature. This doesn’t even include the supplemental content Criterion is famous for and which we’ll bring to the Criterion experience on Hulu Plus over time: commentaries, documentaries, interviews, original trailers, essays, and more. Many of these will be digitized for the first time. We’re honored to partner with Criterion to make all this cinematic treasure available to movie lovers, critics, and historians alike.

Movies, unlike most of our TV programs, aren’t shot with ad breaks in mind, and it has always been tricky to find opportune moments to inject ad breaks in movies on Hulu.com so that we can compensate content owners while maintaining the optimum user experience. For Criterion, thanks to our advertising partners, Hulu Plus subscribers will be able to watch the Criterion Collection free of interruption. (Any ads will play up front.) For those who don’t have a Hulu Plus subscription, each month we’ll still rotate a few Criterion titles through Hulu.com with our normal periodic ad breaks.

The first set of Criterion movies are already available across all devices supported by the Hulu Plus service. On the web, you’ll find Criterion on Hulu at www.hulu.com/criterion. Please dive in and let us know what you think!

Eugene Wei
SVP of Audience

Last comment: about 8 hours ago 51 Comments

A Long Time Coming

February 15th, 2011 by Peter Becker CEO, Criterion

It’s not often that you get to say you are going to meet millions of new people on a single day while making a wish come true for many of your oldest friends, but that is exactly what is happening to the Criterion Collection today, as we go live with a major new offering on Hulu.

When I first started working at the Criterion Collection about seventeen years ago, I remember coming across a file box full of typed and handwritten letters that viewers had sent to Jon Mulvaney, our longtime customer liaison. At that time, the company was sometimes referred to as the “Rolls-Royce of laser discs” — an honor, to be sure, but one that was meaningful to a vanishingly small sliver of the American public. Many of our editions sold hundreds, not even thousands, of copies, at prices as high as $125 for a single film, but we had a very dedicated audience of movie lovers who had come to value Criterion for our commitment to quality, and for the array of special features we had pioneered starting in 1984, when we published the first ever commentary tracks and special features to appear alongside motion pictures.

It is tempting to say that a lot has changed since then, but the truth is, even more has remained constant. We don’t make laser discs anymore, but we are still dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and using the latest technology to present them in editions that will deepen viewers’ appreciation and understanding of the art of cinema. Customers still write to Jon Mulvaney all the time, but now instead of pens and typewriters, they send him e-mail or post to our Facebook page or Twitter.

When I think back to all the letters I read that day, I realize that even the subjects of those letters haven’t changed much at all. Most were and are passionate pleas for us to release a favorite film or seek out a particular director’s work, but then, as now, one of the most common requests was for some kind of subscription program that would give customers access to everything we put out.

Starting today, there are more than 150 of our most important films online on the Hulu Plus subscription service. Over the coming months, that number will swell to more than 800 films. For the true cinephile, this should be a dream come true. On Hulu Plus, you’ll find everything in our library, from Academy Award winners to many of the most famous films by art-house superstars like Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, and Federico Fellini to films so rare that they have never been seen in the U.S. in any medium. Some of these lost gems have been so hard to see that even most of the Criterion staff will see them for the first time only when they go live on Hulu Plus! Each month, we’ll be highlighting a mix of programs, centered on themes, directors, actors, and other creative artists, as well as celebrity picks, and mixing them with deep cuts from the catalog that will be unknown to all but the most prominent cinephiles in the world.

Criterion has always been a company driven by its mission, not by any particular medium, and while we still see our core business as producing the world’s best DVD and Blu-ray versions of the world’s best films, this new venture with Hulu represents a huge expansion of our reach. Not only will Hulu users have access to the largest digital archive of Criterion movies for the first time, Hulu Plus subscribers will now be able to stream our films (and yes, before long, many of our supplements too!) on a wide array of devices, including iPhones, iPads, PlayStations, and Internet-connected television sets.

And finally, why Hulu? In short, because they get it. As their regular viewers know, the Hulu user experience is exactly what it should be: simple, elegant, and focused on the content. Hulu has built their brand on letting the shows and movies take center stage. Nobody does it better, and we’re honored that they see Criterion as a good match for their audience. We’re going to do all we can to make the experience of Criterion on Hulu Plus an exciting adventure for all of us, so please check it out and let us know what you think.

Peter Becker
CEO, Criterion

Last comment: about 9 hours ago 9 Comments